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What is technical translation?

Technical Translation

What is technical translation?


Technical translation

Technical translation is the translation of texts that fall under the generic term of technical documentation. Without examining in detail the different text types, texts that belong to this genre have the following specific characteristics:

  • They are informative or content-oriented texts that accompany a product or service, describing the product's characteristics or providing instructions for its use, etc.
  • Within the technical documentation genre, there are many subtypes (manuals, catalogues, guides, data sheets, etc.).
  • Depending on the subtype, there are established text conventions regarding the content, the structure of the content and how it is presented. 
  • Depending on the target audience (experts, operators, consumers), these texts can be more or less "technical", i.e. the content can be more or less complex and require more or less specialist knowledge.
  • Another characteristic and a measure of the degree of technicality or specialisation is the abundant use of technical terms specific to the subject area of ​​the text.

Depending on the subtype, a technical translation may include:

  •     The translation of product catalogues
  •     The translation of part or accessory catalogues
  •     The translation of data sheets
  •     The translation of product guides
  •     The translation of installation or assembly manuals
  •     The translation of instructions for use
  •     The translation of maintenance manuals
  •     The translation of repair manuals
  •     The translation of machine texts
  •     The translation of diagnostic device texts
  •     The translation of technical requirements for tenders
  •     The translation of tutorials or other training materials
  •     Software translation (also called software localisation)
  •     The translation of web applications
  •     The translation of online help

Technical legal translations

The translation of certain subtypes of technical documentation, in addition to subject matter expertise, requires knowledge of legal translation, for example:

  • The translation of conditions of sale and service provision
  • The translation of guarantee clauses
  • The translation of licence agreements

Technical advertising translations

Certain advertising and marketing texts can also be included in the technical documentation genre, although their communicative intention, in addition to informing, is to convince, inspire and encourage consumption. Nevertheless, some of them have a high content of technical terms or technical jargon (non-standardised terminology), precisely to appeal to certain consumer groups. Advertising translation or transcreation of the following text types requires special skills:

  • The translation of advertising brochures
  • The translation of advertising web content
  • The translation of advertisements or advertising campaigns
  • The translation of corporate videos or videos advertising products or services

The above list of text types and subtypes found in technical documentation is by no means exhaustive. There are more types and subtypes, as well as mixed text types or complex text types (documents that are composed of several subtypes) and each of these usually follows certain conventions that may also differ according to the target market.

The skills of a good technical translator

From the characteristics listed here, the skills that a professional technical translator must have can be derived:

  • A high command of the area of ​​knowledge.
  • A high command of the specific terminology of the area of ​​knowledge, both in the source language and in the target language.
  • Theoretical knowledge of terminology and terminology management.
  • Knowledge of the conventions of the different text types.
  • Knowledge and expertise in terms of how to use the techniques for transferring these conventions from one language to another.
  • Curiosity and research skills.
  • Knowledge of the tools that are used today in professional translation (computer-assisted translation systems and terminology management tools).
  • A professional approach that drives them to get to the bottom of issues and find the best solutions.
  • Another crucial, almost alchemistic skill, is the ability to convert badly written source texts into meaningful target language texts.

Thanks for reading! On our blog Globalízate you will find more articles on basic concepts of translation and other linguistic services:

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